Mon | Sep 25, 2017

Foster's Fairplay | How much is too much?

Published:Tuesday | May 2, 2017 | 5:00 AM
Usain Bolt (left) with Racers Track Club head coach Glen Mills (centre) and South African Wayde van Niekerk at a training session at the Usain Bolt Track at the UWI Mona Bowl last year.

Another voice has entered the arena of public discussion on a track and field matter about which there are varied opinions. There has been continuing dialogue surrounding the issue as to how much work is too much, as far as the process of caring for and developing young athletes is concerned. Now coming with a related topic is none other than the world-class sprint coach, the Honourable Glen Mills, OJ, who rescued then shepherded the legend Usain Bolt from the depth of despair to the lofty perch in world sprinting which he now enjoys. This, after the Trelawny-born 2002 World Junior Champion seemed to have stumbled through two global events, the 2004 Athens Olympics and the Helsinki World Championships the following year.

Mills' slant speaks to athletes in their formative years, being asked to compete when hurt. There are those who argue that 'running hurt' is naturally accompanying with the sport. The sentiment is extended to suggest that just as a sniffle should not preclude going to work, a niggle can be countenanced while engaging in a sporting activity. That thought may be acceptable in professional exploits at the senior level, but this columnist rejects that view for our young children, as in so doing, it could rob them of a hopefully rewarding career.

Coach Mills has cited two instances during the 2017 ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys & Girls Athletics Championships where a male and a female athlete were asked to compete wearing tapes, which are clear indicators that something is amiss in the area where they appear. He appeared disturbed as he deemed the two individuals to be crucial cogs in the wheel of the sport looking forward. These are the words of Foster's Fairplay, but the tracks were carefully laid by the man who also has conditioning responsibility for the joint second- fastest sprinter ever, Yohan Blake.

If Mills is to be taken seriously and given his expertise and experience, he should, this is worrisome in the extreme. But then, the creator of the once productive Camperdown High School Sprint Factory and co-founder of the Racers Track Club, is merely the Meet Director at Champs. He is not blessed with the power or the professional qualifications to compel a coach to withdraw an athlete under these suspected circumstances. Any such attempt could lead to unwelcome repercussions and thoughts of interference into areas thought to be the sole purview of school management, which in many cases means an all-powerful coach.

 

Future important

 

It should be accepted by the organisers and indeed all involved in the staging of the world renowned event, including sponsors, that the future of these youngsters is of paramount importance.

They need to be protected from over exuberant coaches who see that shiny medal as well as the points attached, as the main or perhaps, only target of their admittedly hard work and sacrifice.

To answer to coach Mills' obvious concern, there should be a body of suitably accredited personnel, empowered to identify instances where athletes are put into competition carrying those injuries or trauma that are likely to hamper their future progress. As copious as the talent is, it is not proper, in the opinion of this columnist, to ignore its nurture simply because, there is more waiting in the wings. The powers that be cannot give credence to any belief that has such a fallacy at its core.

It needs to be emphasised that it is not acceptable to vest what ought to be a medically guided decision in persons not so qualified, and, with that in mind, a viable solution to the problems expressed should be sought.

The Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association ruled just prior to the start of the season against, what in their opinion, was the overuse of athletes.

The restrictions they instituted were hotly contested in certain areas. The results of their action might not be with us for years to come. Regardless, they must rule again in the further interest of our young athletes, nothing less. No entity should be seen to kill their aspirations or those of their families, who are simply waiting in line for a better day. Least of all, those under whose umbrella of care they fall.

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